Ok, I won’t lie to you: I hate St. Patricks Day. There, I said it…and…I feel purged; “Blasphemy!” I hear you cry, “What’s not to like about drinking shed-loads of freezing cold Guinness and pandering to the alcoholic tendencies of our Celtic cousins while wearing a massive and stupid hat shaped a bit like a shamrock?” Well, aside from the obvious issue that you might run into some pissed American tourist claiming Irish heritage because one of their great-great-great grandfathers once got battered by a navvy in a pub that had a picture of Dublin on the wall, it’s just another one of those days (like Christmas, or when the Queen visits) that you got to be seen to be enjoying yourself, otherwise you’re some kind of straight-laced, party-pooping square, hot dog, daddi-o….what? Am I in the fifties now? Where was I? Ah, yes: slagging off St. Patricks day, like some kind of jerk…I suppose, in its defence, at least it’s not as bad as Beaujolais day, which is a totally made-up celebration designed solely to empty the purses of middle-aged, middle-class women, and their daughters – while giving them in return the questionable freedoms of slugging back sour, immature wine, losing a pair of shoes and getting bright red puke all down the front of a nice, new dress.
That was a bit harsh, too…but, in MY defence: it hasn’t stopped raining in three months, the English won a grand slam, the gas and leccy bill from the winter is overdue and Vodafone are hounding me for money I don’t have…so, forgive me if I seem a little snappy.
This St. Patricks day I was looking forward to more than most though, mainly because I was going to see one of my favourite bands play, in a place I hadn’t been to since I was unceremoniously ejected from there about 8 years ago for singing karaoke in a manner guaranteed to divide opinion (at the top of my voice; drunk; badly) and – alongside all this joy and opportunity to reminisce – I also didn’t have to go to work the next day, so could righteously enjoy myself without undue fear of the nagging headache and ponderous bowel movements that usually follow a good session on the black stuff. So we begin:
The George is on Walters Rd, opposite and up the hill a bit from The Tenby. The place is done out in that interior-decor style best described as “proper boozer”. There are booths, lots of tables and round-backed pub chairs, a little stage one end and a nice long bar. The Guinness (which is all I drank) is priced at £3.25, which isn’t bad these days, and the bar staff were welcoming, efficient and friendly. I noticed that they were slightly taken aback at first by the habits and attire of a few of the happy folk who’d descended on their pub for the night, but soon adjusted to new realities as the money started flying over the bar and it became apparent that most of the people in there on a cold Thursday night, mid 6 nations – aside from a couple who were watching the Liverpool Vs Man Utd game with silent, tense enthusiasm – were there for the music. The tills sang their approval.
I arrived early and watched the sound-check with a pint and a mate. The place was filling up quick, so we grabbed a seat about half-way back, opposite two other fellas who looked like they had had no hang-ups at all about celebrating St. Patricks’ day, and with vigour. They were very willing and even seemed pleased to talk to us, and – when they found out I was reviewing the gig for Jack Sounds – spent a considerable amount of time giving me the hard-sell on something they’d come up with called the “Dylan Thomas Car Boot and Dogging Festival”. I’m not messing about: these two beauts – who I won’t name for moral and legal reasons – claimed it was within their power and, indeed, in all of our collective interests to arrange such an event…they even went so far as to insist that the people of Swansea cried out for such a thing and would welcome it with open arms…but I felt their argument was a bit unconvincing, so I remained carefully neutral and unmoved. In the end, exasperated, I told them I was all for it – provided no dogs were harmed.
You got to have standards.
Thankfully, our conversation was cut short by the first musical act of the evening taking the stage in the form of a slender, dark-haired young man called Tom Emlyn Williams. Accompanying himself on an acoustic guitar, he launched into a cover of The Kinks “Lazy Sunday”, done in what can only be described as (and I say this as the greatest of compliments) a sort of lounge-jazz cabaret style. Ok, now I know you’re imagining some sort of cheesy, Butlins-style nightmare, but it wasn’t like that at all! It was basically like Neil Hannon (out of that Divine Comedy band) doing Bob Dylan songs, and who wouldn’t want to hear that? The guy was great, actually, and he grew more on me as his set went on. There were a few more covers and a few originals, all done in this loose, laconic, jazzy, easy style that brought to mind (mine, at least) Sinatra busking outside Glastonbury after a few toots on a suspicious looking roll-up. I could hear trombones in my head. He got out the harmonica and gave it some welly, did a Pogues song, thanked everyone profusely and buggered off without fuss, for a drink. I liked him. Go see him.
The main event of the night was Lost Tuesday Society, a band I interviewed in the last issue, who are – in case anyone wants to accuse me of favouritism – pretty much my favourite band in Swansea at the minute. I love them and freely admit it, so reviewing their gig in the second column is pretty much par for the course…and, as mentioned in the interview last month, they’re recording a second album at the minute, which I’m pretty sure I’ll be reviewing in these pages when it comes out…but I’ll give you poor people a break from them next month, I promise…no, I will! I’m a professional…
The band took the stage at 10:00 and started without ceremony. It struck me, immediately, that they looked and sounded very professional and well-rehearsed, which I felt the need to write down in my notebook. I was relatively sober at this point, so we can assume I was still a credible witness. My notes, however, tell a somewhat different story, as it appears that I may have got a little side-tracked and carried away sometime after a trip to the toilet half-way through their set. I’m not entirely sure why, but it seemed to be a high-water point in my coherency. My memories are somewhat dim from there on, so I’ve decided it might actually be easier and more factually accurate to reprint a slightly annotated version of the scrawl in my notebook, in the hope that it can more honestly tell the story of the next couple of hours better than I can. I do recall there was a brief, good-natured on-stage argument for an interval which wasn’t granted but, aside from that and pleas for more beer, the band played through and I, apart from the aforementioned quick trip for a slash, sat down the front, sharing a table with a different companion from earlier on. I was certainly close to the action.
My new friend was a confident, cultured, educated, rabid young man of arts who had a far different and more pressing set of needs to be accommodated than my friends of earlier on. He felt a great urge and even duty to contribute to my budding saga in any way that felt right, and more than once I had to reproach him savagely for attempting to assume total control. I paid him back later on by pinning him in a doorway and reciting poetry at him while he shrieked at me to slow down but, for now, he was force of nature whose scrofulous offerings would be carelessly scattered through my notes like a benign yet lingering disease…as you shall see.
JS NOTES (LTS@THE GEORGE, 17th March)
KEY – FS: Felix Subway (vocals/guitar), FM: Flipsy McCaw (vocals/guitar), DB: Darran Browning (vocals/guitar), DINK: Darren Beynon (bass)
Look like pros. First song “I see through you”; massive sound; delicacy therein; use the 3 guitars well…really full sounding, like an undulating well – and those harmonies! Something in the air, and the drummer is a big part of it. “Constant state of…” – sounds as good as ever. Good groove, comfortable. I do love this band, mind. “She’s gone” next; take a seat at the front, loud enough to distort the ears. “Fabricate”: FS song – or at least he’s on lead vocals. Big chorus: “maybe this all comes easy to you”, less folky, more angular, more rock. [At this point my pen and notebook were seized by my companion] BEWARE: THEY FLY OVER HEDGES WITH CORN IN THEIR MOUTHS. BEWARE! THEY ARE THE TREE CUTTERS. [Notes cont…] …like Franz Ferdinand channelling Bowie doing Fleetwood Mac. Next song, FS: “Reminds me of Blind Melon. I like Blind Melon”. Damn, this is good; effortless pop majesty. FM and DB sing unison throughout, like one voice. This song is like a graduation, a statement of intent…an amalgamation of all that came before it…what’s it called? Then they play “Gold”, which is probably the best one so far. There’s a feeling of tension in this tune; the flute floats like an accusation, like a cloud of unanswered questions. Then [my companion] loses his phone and all sorts of chaos breaks loose. What? Shut up you schwein, I’m trying to watch the band. Next song: “Fire”. By this point whole pub won over. Latecomers stand in a corner, craning for a view. From 3ft you can hear how much DB does: all sorts of contra-rhythms that under-pin everything; riffs that lay in wait, spiralling to the surface when needed; “Spaniard”, another song where the 3 guitars all have something to do…layered, multi-faceted sound. It all comes together, but the PA is starting to break up. [notebook seized again] THEREIN LIES YOUR OWN DISCREPANCY [Notes cont…] Next song new, learned lyrics this afternoon, bass-heavy, swing – what’s it called? Straightens up, not as well-rehearsed as the rest, kind of gospel chorus, best vocals thus far. New album song? “The Devil in a B&B?” Maybe…“Oh no, there’s evil in the kitchen, so long it’s best to let it go”. Vocal ending. This song swings. There’s a riff driving it that shows its face seldom. “Merry Dance”; enter Dink – bass-players song. “I love camping” next; flute is brilliant, having fun with it.”Hunt you down” then, new, DB song(?), summers day, amazing guitar intro. Grown up. What a tune! Sounds like The Eagles doing a track off The White Album. Sung in thirds. Last song, can never remember the title (what a pro!): “Somebody catch me, Lord”? Magical sounding. Just FM at the start. Meanders lovely for an age, then kicks in, reminds you you’re alive. Sadness in the air, defiance at its core, and I’m so close I can hear the creak of the floorboards under the singers feet.
I hope that clears everything up. It was a great night and nobody made me wear a silly hat. I got home late, drunk and happy, and slept flatulently till the following afternoon like a hibernating bear. Perfect. Vive le nocturne. JS